Understanding Endpoint Privilege Management

What is Endpoint Privilege Management?

Endpoint privilege management, an element of endpoint security strategies, aims to prevent users from gaining access to software or functionality they don’t actually require. Privilege management uses the principle of least privilege (PLP) to minimize the attack surface, by eliminating unnecessary administrator accounts on devices. The end goal is to prevent privilege escalation by attackers who compromise an endpoint, or malicious insiders.

There are two basic hierarchy levels in an enterprise when determining endpoint privileges: administrators and standard users. Administrators usually have elevated privileges when running specific applications. They can be domain administrators or local administrators.

Domain administrators can modify and access all standard user machines, thereby having the highest level of privileges.

  • Local administrators can access specific endpoints and the data they contain.

Traditionally, standard users who had to run an application in administrator mode either received admin credentials for that application, or worse, received organization-wide privileges. This created major security concerns. Privilege management makes it possible to elevate application privileges only when users actually require it, and revoking them later, enabling productivity without sacrificing security.

Benefits of Endpoint Privilege Management

Endpoint privilege management provides the following security benefits.

Visibility of Privileges

Privilege management platforms usually incorporate dashboards, providing reports with drill-down options that let you view privileges at a granular level. This visibility enhances auditing and control over other activities. The platform details what applications are deployed or in use, which of them actually require privileges, which users have admin rights at any given moment.

Improving Security for Remote Workers

Mobile users and remote workers represent a higher security risk than employees working inside the network perimeter. Privilege management allows them to install software, update applications, and change settings, no matter where they are, as long as they comply with the security policy. This flexible privilege policy provides the precise privileges required to perform a specific job or role, enhancing both productivity and security.

Securing Third-Party Access

A major security risk in many organizations is administrative access provided to external users. This is especially problematic when these third parties perform IT services like network or system maintenance.

Endpoint privilege management enables third parties to perform their function on specified servers, using company-approved processes and applications. The privilege management system defines a timeframe and scope of work, and revokes privileges when the job is done.

Components of an EPM Solution

A properly functioning enterprise privilege management solution provides chief information security officers (CISOs) and their teams with comprehensive control over all users and service roles. Its three main components are:

Privileged Access Management (PAM)

PAM monitors and controls each entity on the network and its current privileges. Upon discovery of a privileged account, it applies security controls and alerts the security team. Using policies, it audits usage of administrative accounts, actively reduces or removes admin privileges on endpoints, and prevents attacks from escalating into major incidents.

Endpoint Application Control (EAC)

Day-to-day operations like installing peripherals, changing system configuration, or updating software, all require administrative privileges. Under a strict least privilege policy, all these requests would have to be handled by IT, which would affect productivity and become a burden on IT teams.

EAC solves this problem by automating privilege allocation. It determines the conditions under which a service, process, or application can run. One of those conditions is the user: who can do what with what—even if they lack administrative privileges for the endpoint.

EAC can then grant selective administrative permissions to a user, letting them run certain applications with temporary increased privileges, but without granting full administrative access. EAC can also define which users can run which services, without changing user accounts or access control lists (ACLs).

Local Account Management

Local accounts on endpoints (for example, Windows user accounts) control access to that individual endpoint. Credentials are stored and verified locally by the host when logging in. By contrast, domain accounts allow access to applications and services on the corporate network, and can potentially be used from any endpoint.

Since a single endpoint can contain multiple local accounts (both local accounts and domain accounts), to enforce least privilege, you need to manage privileges on all these accounts, along with the privileges of the main user, the endpoint administrator. 

Local Account Management lets you remove accounts from privileged groups or roles, and set rules specifying which accounts can and cannot be added to privileged groups on each endpoint Endpoints should not be permitted to directly change membership in groups. An additional benefit is the ability to enforce strong passwords and regular password rotation.

What to Look for in an EPM Solution

Here are some of the key features to look for in an endpoint privilege management system.

  • Automated privilege elevation—making privilege management practical for users by automatically elevating privileges when the user’s need complies with security policies. With granular privilege policies, most requests for administrative permissions can be evaluated without manual intervention from IT staff. Only special cases can be escalated to an IT team. 
  • Account discovery—automatically identifying privileged accounts across all endpoints and applications. It is impractical to rely on manual lists of applications and accounts.
  • Support for external devices—managing least privileges for endpoints outside the corporate network, such as personal devices and cloud-based applications or resources. 
  • Reporting and analytics—providing dashboards to show stakeholders the scope, impact and results of your privilege management program, and track key performance indicators.
  • Application restrictions—restricting the use of unknown applications, either by whitelisting or security rules.
  • Sandboxing applications—enables security teams to run applications in a secure, isolated environment, and test them before allowing their use in production. If an application turns out to be malicious, it will have no impact on the underlying endpoints and no access to credentials.
  • Threat intelligence—an EPM solution should have an integrated, constantly updated threat database. This can help automatically update blacklists of unwanted or malicious applications.
  • Compliance—privilege management systems must be compatible with your compliance obligations. PCI DSS, HIPAA, and many other standards have specific requirements for least privilege management. 

Enhancing Endpoint Security with Hysolate

Hysolate Workspace is a fully isolated and secured VM on your users’ Windows10 endpoint, so your team can work productively on their host operating system, while keeping access to your company’s data secured and protected in the Hysolate OS.

Workspace is deployed and scaled in minutes on user endpoints, and is managed from the cloud, so you can customize policies for each team and their needs. Unlike cloud-based traditional VDI or DaaS solutions, Workspace provides a great native user experience, with no lag or latency issues, even when using communication and productivity applications like Slack and Zoom.

Request a demo to find out more how Hysolate can help secure your endpoint devices, while your team can work productively.